This Bank Holiday, I am celebrating the publication for Kindle of four new (well, sort of new) stories—the four books of The Aikenhead Honours series. In revised editions. With four brand new covers that I love. See for yourself, in the image below:
The original Harlequin covers focused purely on the lovers. Fair enough, but I wanted my new covers to show how far afield my heroes had to travel to find their brides. Book 1 shows the Hermitage in St Petersburg, Book 2 shows Schönbrunn palace outside Vienna, Book 3 shows Notre Dame, in Paris, Book 4 shows the old city in Lyons. My heroes went to all those places on business, of course—spying business.
Editing the Aikenhead Honours Series
You may remember that I blogged about the problems of republishing vintage titles, after Elizabeth Hawksley wrote of her difficulties with digital files. I had the complete digital files safely tucked away. But, oh dear… Were they fit to be republished?
Dealing with the habit words was easy enough, though time-consuming—there were loads of them, I am ashamed to admit. I’ve become more self-critical over the years.
But the real problem with the Aikenhead Honours series related to how I wrote it. Originally, it was a series of three books, one each for Dominic, Duke of Calder, and his brothers, Lord Leo and Lord Jack. Then, Harlequin asked me to write a short ebook novella about the fourth member of the Aikenhead spying brotherhood, Ben, Baron Dexter. I made that novella work at the time, though I was never satisfied with it because Ben’s love story deserved to be more than just a sexy romp.
A few years ago, I rewrote and republished Ben’s story as a proper novel. I was much happier with the long version than with the original. But…
Isn’t there always a but?
Once I had the rights to all four stories, I wanted to republish them as a coherent series. I read them, one after the other, for the first time in years. And I discovered the four didn’t work as a series. ARGH!
Book 3 (His Forbidden Liaison) had originally been written as the final book of the series. It had an epilogue to answer the reader’s outstanding questions from all three books so that the HEA was clear for all four of my heroes, including Ben.
Except that the epilogue in Book 3 included spoilers for what was then written as Book 4 (His Silken Seduction). And there was a loose end from Book 2 (His Reluctant Mistress) that I hadn’t found a way of tying up in Book 3’s original epilogue.
I must have written at least 4 new versions of the epilogue to Book 3. None of them worked. Either they still had spoilers in them, or they didn’t feel like part of Jack and Marguerite’s love story. After much thrashing around, and stern words from Sophie, my crit partner, I finally settled on adding a couple of chapters to the original Book 3, and a new section in Book 4. I think (fingers crossed) that Book 3 is now spoiler free. And that Book 4 is a more satisfying read.
And that loose end? I have tied it up.
But no, I’m not going to say what it was. I think I’ve made quite enough confessions in this blog already 😉
A Little Extra Something for Libertà Readers
To give you a flavour of the members of the Aikenhead spying brotherhood, I’m including here a short story I wrote about Jack, the third of my Aikenhead heroes. This story is set between books 3 and 4, in the run-up to Waterloo. Napoleon is back on the French throne and the Allies have tasked the Duke of Wellington with “saving the world”. So all of Europe is uncertain.
And Jack still has work to do as a spy.
London, May, 1815
What man in his right mind would be a spy?
It was long after midnight. It should have been pitch black, for there was no moon. But fleeting patches of light from flambeaux or link-boys drew the eye, throwing the shadows into even deeper relief. The last carriage clattered across the cobbles, its flickering lamps soon swallowed up by the gloom. From the lurking darkness, low voices murmured, occasionally broken by a husky laugh and, once, a woman’s scream, quickly stifled.
The very walls were menacing. Covent Garden at this hour was no place for a lone man to linger.
Jack felt a wry smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. Would his contact arrive at all? He had no way of knowing. He leaned back against the cold stone and drove his hands deep into his pockets, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness. Such was the lot of a spy. Simply to wait.
That scream again.
Jack recognised real fear in the woman’s voice this time. Whoever she was, he could not ignore her plight. He sprinted lightly towards the sound, his fists clenched, all his senses alert.
In a narrow alley of overhanging buildings, a man held a woman pinned up against the wall, his hands around her neck. Her skirts had been pushed up above her waist. She was struggling valiantly, trying to knee him in the groin, but he was choking the life out of her. In a moment, she would be unconscious.
Jack grabbed the man by the shoulder and spun him round. The ruffian’s filthy face registered shock, followed by exploding fury, just as Jack felled him with a straight right to the chin. The man hit the stone wall and slithered down into an untidy heap on the ground.
Rubbing his knuckles, Jack rapidly assessed his options. The man should be taken in charge, but Jack dare not quit his post. A lone woman could not do it, especially not a woman of this class. The blackguard would have to remain where he lay, with only a damaged jaw as punishment for his crime.
Beside him, the woman was automatically trying to smooth down her skirts. Only when that was done to her satisfaction did she straighten and raise her hands to her injured neck.
He knew her! That beautiful stretching body was unmistakable.
“Why, it’s Hetty, isn’t it? Good evening, ma’am.” Jack had no hat to doff, but he bowed to the lightskirt as if to a countess. Hetty was no common harlot. Only gentlemen frequented the house where she worked.
She had been smiling her thanks, but now her eyes widened in recognition and she laughed, though the sound was hoarse in her bruised throat. “Get along with you, Lord Jack.” She let her gaze drift over his immaculately tailored evening clothes, his pristine white shirt and the silk-lined cloak hanging carelessly from his shoulders. The large ruby pin nestling in the folds of his cravat made her eyes goggle. “Taking a bit of a risk wearing that here, ain’t yer?”
“Aren’t you taking a risk by walking here alone?” he flashed back. At least he was armed; she was defenceless.
Hetty shrugged in response, seeming to accept that he was right.
Jack said nothing. He knew better than to probe further, for she would simply tell him—with a chuckle—to mind his business. He had rescued her from her folly. She was too sensible to repeat it.
Hetty glanced down at her assailant. “I hope you broke his jaw,” she said, with venom, letting Jack take her elbow and usher her out of the lane. “Where you been these last months?” She narrowed her eyes assessingly, now that his face was no longer in shadow. “You look different. Still a handsome devil, but different. Older.” She dropped him a curtsey. She had never done that before.
“Dare I hope that you think I look wiser, too, Hetty?”
“What, you? The maddest gambler and scapegrace in London? It’d take more than a couple of years in your dish to change your wild ways.” She let her gaze soften. “Want to come back for a nightcap?” Her voice had sunk to a seductive murmur.
He shook his head. “Prior engagement, I fear.”
“Another night then?” Hetty smiled her most inviting smile.
Jack realised he should have expected this. He had always tipped well. All the muslin company knew that.
He hesitated, unwilling to give her a straight answer. There were some things—private, deeply-cherished things—that a man did not share. “My evenings are …er… devoted to other pursuits, these days. Will you get home safe? I’m afraid I am not free to escort you.”
Hetty grinned. “Lord love yer, I’m a working girl. Don’t you worry none about me. I’ll hurry. And I promise I’ll keep away from the shadows.”
Relieved, Jack put his hands on her shoulders and kissed her lightly on the cheek. Then, remembering his duty, he bowed to her once more and turned away, strolling lazily across the square to resume his vigil. Long ago, he had concluded that a spy’s lot consisted of long periods of boredom, punctuated by rare bursts of frenzied action. He found himself grinning into the challenging gloom. He had probably had his full quota of excitement for tonight.
Hetty stared after his retreating back. Not the same man at all, she decided. No longer a playboy. And no longer a boy, either. Some woman—some very lucky woman—had caught Lord Jack Aikenhead and shown him the value of life and love, values that only a grown man could appreciate. Who was she? And how on earth had she worked such a miracle?
Hetty shook her head. Chances were that she would never know.
But if you would like to learn about the woman who tamed London’s most outrageous playboy, you can read their adventures in His Forbidden Liaison.
The whole series is now available to download from your local Amazon.
Buy Links Below:
His Cavalry Lady
His Reluctant Mistress
His Forbidden Liaison
His Silken Seduction
A Giveaway to Celebrate the new editions of
The Aikenhead Honours Series
GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED!
Winner is Helena Fairfax
Later this week, I will pick one blog comment at random. The lucky winner will receive free copies of ALL FOUR Kindle ebooks in The Aikenhead Honours series: His Cavalry Lady, His Reluctant Mistress, His Forbidden Liaison, His Silken Seduction. Leave a comment to enter. You never know—you might win.
They look wonderful, Joanna. Great to see them back out there.
Thanks, Liz. It’s been a hassle. Amazon thought I didn’t own the rights to two of them. Why two out of four? Dunno. But at least there’s an automated system for dealing with that issue. A few years ago, I had to send them a scan of the reversion letter.
Being slightly – ahem! – elderly, I remember reading and loving the Roger Brook spy series written by Dennis Wheatley and loving them. Outdated now of course but these sound an excellent replacement. And the covers are gorgeous.
So glad you like the covers and that you fancy the books, Anne. I love these 4 heroes. Rereading them made me fall in love all over again, too.
I loved the short story, Joanna, and your new covers look great! I love all the different settings, too, especially Lyon and its old silk quarter. Very romantic!
Thanks, Helena. I was very taken by the old silk quarter in Lyon when I visited. (Research, natch.) I watched silk velvet being made on a hand loom which was fascinating but SO time-consuming. The weaver was doing only inches a day. It was a commission for a Paris haute-couture house so the price would have been suitably high 😉
Great story and period detail, Joanna, and I do like the covers. I can imagine your frustration in getting the books back out with everything in the correct order but certainly worth doing them.
If I’d known how much work it would be, Rosemary, I might not have started. But once I had, I had to finish. And I think the results are probably worth the effort.
Those who get the blog by email will have seen that one of the Buy Links was marked as not working. Amazon has extracted its digit and all four Buy Links now work. Do feel free to click on them 😉
Fantastic job, Joanna! It’s a bit of a nightmare picking up those old books and refurbishing them to suit, as I know. How much do you edit? Is it really doable to revise to the standard at which one writes now? Such a dilemma. Love what you’ve done with these books. And the short story was great fun.
You’ve obviously met the same problems as I did, Liz. But at least we historical authors don’t have to update for changes as contemporary authors might feel they should. Glad you enjoyed Jack’s little foray into pre-Waterloo London.
Joanna, I remember reading these the first time round and thoroughly enjoying them (as I have every single one of your books!) I must add them to my must-buy list.
Thank you, Julie. It’s so great when readers say things like that. Makes all those hours at the keyboard feel worthwhile. Hope you enjoy them second time around. And you’ll find some changes, too.
The new covers are lovely, Joanna. Very eye-catching too. I admire your stamina in revising these novels and putting them out there again. Never had the courage to do it myself, but I like hearing about writers I know who do manage it. Such fun to re-read their work!
You must have quite a lot of reverted books that you could republish, Gail. Maybe worth a try? As long as you’re happy with the text, as author, you can pay someone else to do the formatting and create the cover. Indeed (she says immodestly) I offer formatting services myself. The problems come when the author no longer likes the old text and feels the itch to rework. That’s when the hassle starts… 😉